At only 31 years old, Jackie entered the White House as First Lady. She bucked convention again when she proved determined to transform the White House into a temple of culture and taste. The house she entered was shabby and lacked character, but it would soon reflect Jackie and her vision of her husband’s administration: vital, cultured and brimming with youthful sophistication.
Jackie was appalled at the state the White House when she moved in. She felt the people’s house had been neglected over the years and did not reflect the grandeur of its history or purpose. In Jackie’s opinion, it would prove a poor stage for the American Pageant. So, she immediately began her world famous restoration. She organized the Fine Arts Committee for the White House and began soliciting contributions of historically appropriate furnishings and objects of art. With the committee, she began to unearth the White House’s own treasures, stored and forgotten over the decades. Reflecting her attitude, Jackie said, “Everything in the White House must have a reason for being there. It would be sacrilege merely to redecorate it… It must be restored, and that has nothing to do with decoration. That is a question of scholarship.” With the White House’s public and private rooms into a study of sophisticated elegance that reflected its glorious past.
While she commemorated the White House’s past, Jackie simultaneously launched its future. This time breaking with tradition, Jackie reinvented entertaining in our nation’s capital. With bravura and style, Jackie created nights of culture that would prove legendary. Her parties drew the best and brightest in the arts, sciences, and politics, all of whom completely enchanted by those glittering evenings. Jackie made it all happen with careful attention to her fashion, food, flowers, music – even topics of conversation. There was an entirely new tone in Washington because of Jackie and her husband and it was dashing and modern. Against the stately new backdrop of the restored White house, it is little wonder it came to be called Camelot.